DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my best friends is very sick, and I don't know what to do. I went to visit her the other day, and just looking at her, I could see that, shy of a miracle, she is not long for this world. She is such a private person that she hadn't let me know how bad it was. I want to be there to help her in any way that I can, but she really isn't letting me. She has no family here. She lives alone. I want to help her, whether it would be as an advocate with her doctors, to bring her some soup or even just to give her a hug. But she seems to prefer to be alone. How can I support my friend when she doesn't really want it? -- At My Wits' End, Detroit
DEAR AT MY WITS' END: I am so sorry to hear about your friend's illness. When loved ones fall ill, it affects not just them, but everyone who cares about them, as you are seeing. It is also their prerogative to deal with their illness however they choose. Some people welcome conversation about what's going on. Others clam up because they either don't want others around, or they can't deal with their reality themselves. Whatever your friend's case, it truly is up to her to decide if you can step closer into her world to help her.
Rather than being pushy, what you can do is call her daily to check in on her. You can ask her if she needs anything -- food, help with any paperwork that may need to be handled (often, people who are sick become delinquent with their bills) or a hug. She may say no a thousand times, but one time the answer may be yes. Be ready for that, and jump to it.